Why would President Barack Obama choose to infuriate both America’s Catholics and Southern Baptists during an election year?

“It seems that Obama, in a classic act of hubris, has created the means of his own destruction,” writes conservative commentator J.R. Dunn in the American Thinker.

President Obama

“Chris Matthews on MSNBC recalled the other night that we Catholics grew up watching A Man for All Seasons in which Thomas More refuses to violate his conscience and is beheaded for it by Henry VIII,” writes liberal columnist Michael Sean Winters in the Daily Beast. “Obama has struck a deep chord in our culture, one he may not have recognized, which is damning in itself.”

Across America on Sunday, Feb. 12, Catholic church bulletins included statements from theU.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website alerting the 77.7 million members of America’s largest denomination – which makes up an estimated 22 percent of voters – that “Never before has federal law forced citizens to purchase what violates their deeply held beliefs and ethical convictions.

“But now the Administration is forcing us to act as if pregnancy were a disease to be prevented at all costs. For many Americans, that means choosing between violating our consciences and forgoing health care — literally an unconscionable dilemma.”

During Sunday’s services, parish priests nationwide included in their prayers for the sick and shut-ins an extra line that the Lord would cause President Obama to change his mind.

What had their passions so inflamed?

The Obama  administration has ordained that all health insurance

plans in the United States must cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions. The response surely was not anticipated by Administration officials.

“We need more than rule-making, we need a law,” reads thenational bishops’ website — quoted in many inserts in U.S. church bulletins and explained to parishioners at the end of Sunday’s services. “Our country’s longstanding laws protecting conscience rights must now apply fully to the implementation of health care reform.”

And it’s not just Catholics who are alarmed.

Dr. Richard Land, one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the United States, says “Christians should go to jail rather than comply with the Obama administration’s mandate to provide all contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, in their health care plans,” reports Ben Johnson writing for LifeSiteNews.

Dr. Richard Land

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Johnson, “we will not comply” with the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring religious institutions to cover abortion products such as Plan B, Ella, and the IUD.

“We want the law changed, or else we’re going to write our letters from the Nashville jail, just like Dr. King wrote his from the Birmingham jail,” Dr. Land said.

Dr. Land, writing an opinion piece on the Baptist Press website with Southern Baptist leader Barrett Duke, called on his fellow Southern

Baptists and evangelical Christians throughout America to oppose the Obama rules.

The Southern Baptists are the nation’s second-largest denomination with 16 million members.

“The Obama administration has declared war on religion and freedom of conscience,” Land and Duke wrote. “We consider this callous requirement by the Obama administration to be a clear violation of our nation’s commitment to liberty of conscience and a flagrant violation of our constitutional protection to freedom of religion.”

Land told LifeSiteNews he hopes Baptist ministers will “preach from the pulpit just how serious and dangerous this initiative by the Obama administration is,” and “encourage their parishioners to contact their congressmen and their senators and the president and let them know how deeply unhappy they are with this decision, and they want … legislation guaranteeing that it won’t happen again.”

Who else is upset?

Obama’s edict is "a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand,” declares a letter signed by 25 University of Notre Dame faculty members as well as scholars from Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Georgetown, Brigham Young, Yeshiva and Wheaton College. Nor were they placated by Obama’s retreat at the end of last week from his initial announcement – as their letter declares in blistering terms:

“This so-called ‘accommodation’ changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.”

The letter calls Obama’s revision of the regulation “an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.” 

What was the White House thinking? Roman Catholics are the largest single religious denomination in the United States. Southern Baptists are the second largest. In one fell swoop, Obama seems to have united conservative and liberals within both churches.

“The night after the decision, I had friends over for dinner and I

announced my intention not to vote for President Obama again,” writes the arch-liberal Winters – proclaiming he will never again vote for Obama. “My friends asked, almost in unison, ‘Are you going to vote for the Republicans?’ I replied, ‘I said I have lost my respect for the president. I haven’t lost my mind, nor my moral compass.’ In November, I will be leaving the presidential column on my ballot blank.”

Has Obama alienated left-wing Catholics?

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Political liberal Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, says he “cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience” than the Obama edict.

“Another liberal Catholic, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla.,” writes William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal, “has raised the specter of ‘civil disobedience’ and vowed that he will drop coverage for diocesan workers rather than comply."

The bishops are joined in their expressions of discontent by the leaders of Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, which employ 70,000 people.

“The irony, of course,” writes Casey, “is that the ruling is being imposed by a Catholic Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, working in an administration with a Catholic vice president, Joe Biden.”

Casey recalled how a few years back, Biden famously threatened to “shove my rosary beads" down the throat of those who dared suggest that his party’s positions on social issues put it at odds with people of faith.”

“Catholic liberals appreciate that this HHS decision is more than a

return to the hostility that sent so many Catholic Democrats fleeing to the Republican Party these past few decades,” writes Bob Casey Jr, a Catholic whose father was a Democratic governor of Pennsylvania. “They understand that if left to stand, this ruling threatens the religious institutions closest to their hearts — those serving Americans in need, such as hospitals, soup kitchens and immigrant services.”

Conservative Dunn has no sympathy for the president, writing that Obama has taken on a 2,000-year-old organization with a billion members “and a history of overcoming political threats that make Obama look like a kindergartner. I’m referring, of course, to the Catholic Church.  Now, I don’t mean that the Archangel Gabriel will appear out of the East to scourge the administration with a blazing sword, though I would pay to see that.

“What I’m saying is that Obama has at last taken the step that we all knew he had in him, the ultimate act of arrogance and contempt that will bring the forces of history down upon him.”

Well, not so fast, writes liberal columnist and practicing Catholic E.J. Dionne, in the Washington Post. He is satisfied with the changes Obama has made in the edict – even if the bishops and the Southern Baptists aren’t.

But does Obama care?

If not, warns Dunn, the President needs to recall the words of Josef Stalin to political stalwart V.M. Molotov: “How many divisions has the pope?” as he mocked Christians’ powerlessness.

Pope John Paul II

Stalin, of course, notes Dunn, “was not around to see John Paul II rend the Bolshevik kingdom in twain at the climax of the Cold War, utilizing the only forces he required: moral certainty and absolute faith in the divine mission.”

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